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Ordained Without Seminary?

By Valerie West

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Do you feel a calling to Pastor or a passion for teaching and ministering but don’t have the time or the funds to attend seminary? If so, you may be surprised to learn you don’t need a college degree or even go to a seminary to become an ordained Pastor or Minister.

The process of becoming ordained may differ between churches, but the purpose is the same: to recognize the unique calling on one’s life and to publicly declare that their community accepts them as a spiritual leader. 

Remember the story in 1 Samuel 16:11-13:

“And the LORD said [to the prophet Samuel], ‘This is the one; anoint him.” So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David from that day on.”  

David was a 14-year-old shepherd boy, but God chose and anointed him to be the next king; he had no formal training, no experience, and was considered the runt of the family. God knew who David was but, more importantly, who He created him to be.

Please don’t misunderstand; formal training is highly beneficial, but one can’t learn everything there is to know about being a pastor from it. 

Just like He did with David, God can use anyone for His service. God knew what kind of leader David would become, and He gave him the training he needed to eventually be king.

David’s story reflects God’s heart for ordination. God equips those He calls into His service. You can be formally educated and ordained, but that is not the only way to be ordained. 

Did you know there are two different kinds of ordination? 

1. Spiritual ordination

Spiritual ordination is the calling of God upon your life. This is the individual calling that a person receives when called into ministry.

Sometimes spiritual ordination is celebrated through the ceremony of the laying on of hands, prayer, anointing oil, and/or a recognition and dedication ceremony. 

For spiritual ordination, there are many different ways to learn and grow.

Some resources that are helpful for continued learning include:

These are beneficial and practical resources to help you grow and become effective ministers for the Kingdom.

2. Legal ordination

Legal ordination is when the state and the federal government recognize your Pastoral position and work.

The IRS defines ordination as “a considered, deliberate, and responsible act of the church.” Under this definition, ordination grants you privileges, like certain tax benefits and the ability to perform marriages, according to your position.

The IRS has outlined what criteria need to be met to be qualified as a legally ordained pastor.

Alongside spiritual ordination, legal ordination can be done through your own church if it is specified in your church’s articles of incorporation and bylaws. It is vital that you have the correct language in your Governing Documents to ordain pastors and ministers legally.

Did you know that the church you plant can be the same church that ordains you legally as Pastor? 

When your church’s official documents include language for ordination, it gives your church the structure and guidance for your organization and the ordination process. Many pastors are unaware of this truth, and that’s why we created the Equipped to Ordain video course to guide you through the process of creating a compliant ordination program.


If you have already established your church and aren’t sure your documents accurately reflect your vision, including creating an ordination program, give us a call at 877-494-4655. We will be happy to assist you!

Can you imagine how special it will be when your church ordains new leaders, raising up the next generation? This is all accomplished when you have correct ordination language in your church’s Governing Documents.

But what about getting ordained online?

Legal ordination is not the same as getting an online ordination certificate. Typically, online certificates are only for performing marriages. That type of ordination does not allow you to utilize all of the benefits of being a legally ordained pastor. 

To take full advantage of the benefits of being a legally ordained pastor, your church or ministry must follow a specific process that must be outlined in your church’s official documents. 

A few steps of the legal ordination process involve:

  • an application
  • various options of education
  • a start date and expiration date 
  • a renewal process
  • continual involvement with the ordaining church organization 

If you are unsure if your process is legal or want to start an ordination program for your church, check out our StartRIGHT program. If you want more information about the benefits that ordination affords you, one of our specialists would love the opportunity to discuss it further with you. Simply click the banner below to schedule a call!


Next Steps

Once David was anointed king, he spent many more years shepherding his father’s flock. It was during this time David trained for his future. What he learned in the pasture was invaluable in the palace. 

God trains each of his leaders differently; the key is making sure there is a firm and solid foundation that is not only recognized by God but also by our state and federal government. 

God has placed a special anointing on His pastors and spiritual leaders. He trains and equips those He calls into His ministry, and it doesn’t have to look the same way for everyone. With faithfulness, God will complete the work He started with you. (Philippians 1:6)

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